Lyric Theatre

213 W. 42nd Street,
New York, NY 10036

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Lyric Theatre exterior

The Lyric Theatre was built in 1903 and designed by Victor Hugo Koehler. It opened on October 12, 1903 with “Old Heidelberg”. The theatre had two entrances, the larger facade being on the W. 43rd Street side, in a mix of Renaissance Revival styles, and the smaller facade, resembling a brownstone mansion, on W. 42nd Street. Both were heavily decorated with sculpture, including figures of goddesses, masks, and of course, lyres. The Adam/Empire style interior of the theatre featured an auditorium with two balconies, 18 boxes, and gilded plasterwork. The color scheme was originally light green and rose.

The Lyric Theatre was initially to have been leased to composer Reginald DeKoven as home to his American School of Opera, but the school went bankrupt before the theatre was completed. It ended up being leased instead to the Shubert brothers as a legitimate stage. Sarah Bernhardt & her company appeared here, as well as Mrs Patrick Campbell. During slack periods in the 1910’s and 1920’s the Shubert’s sub-leased the Lyric Theatre out to William Fox to screen movies. In 1925 The Marx Brothers appeared on stage in “The Cocoanuts”. The theatre was sold in 1927 and the new owners planned demolition, but the deal went sour. In 1928 Florenz Ziegfeld presented “The Three Musketeers” starring Dennis King and this was followed by the Cole Porter musical “Fifty Million Frenchmen” on November 27, 1929. After that production closed on July 5, 1930, the theatre see-sawed between movies and stage productions. One of the last stage productions was an all black cast in “Run, Little Chillin” (March 1, 1933-June 17, 1933, and the Lyric Theatre ended its legitimate days in 1934. In order to survive during the Depression, it joined many other W. 42nd Street houses in becoming a movie theatre. The Lyric Theatre remained a movie house until it closed in 1992 (by which time it was in poor shape). In 1996, after its remaining architectural elements were removed, it joined the neighboring Apollo Theatre in being razed apart from its facades.

Replaced by the Ford Center for the Performing Arts, which architectural fragments of both the Lyric Theatre and Apollo Theatre were reused in. Both W. 42nd Street and W. 43rd Street facades of both the Lyric Theatre and Apollo Theatre were also retained. Former Cineplex Odeon baron Garth Drabinsky envisioned the $36 million Ford Center as a home for his production of “Ragtime”, and would be the first new free-standing legitimate house built in Times Square in over 70 years. The Ford Center for the Performing Arts was later renamed the Hilton Theatre, and in 2011 became the Foxwoods Theatre. In May 2013 it was taken over by the British based Ambassador Theatre Group and was renamed Lyric Theatre in March 2014.

Some of the information here was found in the books “Lost Broadway Theatres” by Nicholas Van Hoogstraten and “Broadway Theatres” by William Morrison.

Contributed by Cinema Treasures

Recent comments (view all 112 comments)

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on March 21, 2018 at 10:03 am

Five views of the interior renovations for “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” can be found here

42ndStreetMemories
42ndStreetMemories on March 21, 2018 at 10:53 am

I don’t know. Kind of liked it better when I saw Navy vs. The Night Monsters or Astro Zombies there.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 15, 2018 at 7:02 pm

Excerpt from a New York Times review March 31, 1966:

“Twentieth Century-Fox opened [The Murder Game] yesterday at the Lyric Theater on 42d Street. At this showcase yesterday, where a boisterous mob had piled in to see "Our Man Flint,” topping the double bill, the first twenty minutes of the little picture were inaudible. Suddenly, though, you could have heard a pin drop. Why? Well, there’s this guy who suddenly catches on to a plot by his pretty young wife and a blackmailing handyman to do him in. For money, of course…"

Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez on December 15, 2018 at 7:07 pm

Mike, love this! Ken Roe how about a “like” button on CT?

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on December 16, 2018 at 6:25 am

And “I’m Not a Robot” for security purposes.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on December 16, 2018 at 9:50 am

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on September 3, 2019 at 11:57 am

Hello-

the intro should also note that filmmaking pioneer William Fox rented out this theater for some of his big films such as A Daughter of the Gods and The Queen of Sheba and Sunrise.

Comfortably Cool
Comfortably Cool on September 3, 2019 at 1:26 pm

The current Lyric Theatre is not the same Lyric that was originally “legit” and a cinema in its final life. History detailed here

bigjoe59
bigjoe59 on September 3, 2019 at 1:42 pm

Hello-

to Comfortably Cool- I am well aware the current Lyric Theater which houses the truly spectacular play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is not the same Lyric that William Fox used for exclusive engagements of his most spectacular films of the 1910s and 1920s. since the intro at top is for the original Lyric Theater I’m surprised the info about Fox’s leasing of the theater wasn’t included.

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on September 3, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Since this page and introduction are about the original Lyric Theatre, then Joe’s comments are perfectly apt.

Perhaps the introduction should stop at the end of the second paragraph, and omit the new Lyric’s information and history as a legitimate play house.

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